Virtual launches

Ginninderra Press

Welcome to our virtual launches, showcasing recently published books that, because of Covid-19 restrictions, haven’t had a real launch.

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I enjoyed Waves of Unreason, not only because John Biggs is a friend but also because it’s a great read and a fascinating exploration of the dreadful state of Australian politics.

While I was uncomfortable with some of Biggs’s personal observations of the people involved in policy failures, I acknowledge he needed to go there because such people should be critically considered. After all, business-as-usual is what got us into this mess. Fixing it demands a new set of values and priorities.

The benchmark for good governance used by Biggs is ‘economic growth, social justice, environmental sustainability, and being a good global citizen’. And by that measure there was no shortage of unreason in recent Australian politics for the author to draw on. Like Australia’s inaction on climate change and the fact that so many federal governments have failed us, their policies imperilling the environment, society and economy. Australia’s perverted approach to social justice where years of underinvestment have ensured we’re less well, less clever, less happy and less productive than what might have been. Almost 30 years of cruel and illegal asylum seeker policies under a succession of federal governments which have turned Australia into a humanitarian pariah state. And generations of Australian foreign and security policy based on blind obedience to Washington.

Biggs argues that our political system is broken, although he ends on a positive note in the final chapter, pointing out how he and others think that some of the major problems in the system can be addressed. Hopefully, the author will treat us to a second edition reflecting on government responses to the corona virus.

This is a book full of examples of political unreason. Like waves at the beach. Good on you, John Biggs, for pulling it all together. For the sake of reason.

The Hon. Andrew Willkie MP

Waves of Unreason is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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There are definable books contrived to settle within popular genres. O’Shea’s collection is not that. O’Shea showcases gifts revealing magic in mundane and subtle dislocations in characters’ relationships. This collection inhabits cerebral spaces, often observational, and regularly disconcerting. ‘Don’t Wait’, the title story, is a romp, capturing sibling detachment and rivalry over decades. ‘Field of Stones’ charts genre breaking paths into melodramatic symbology and dementia.

‘Outside the Mirror’ was the first O’Shea story I happened on. It arrived alongside work from writers seeking publication in Lizard Skin Press anthologies. To publish it was a no-brainer. It was unlike anything I’d read. It showed healthy disregard for expectations and broke mainstream rules (there are no hooks). As the elderly narrator drifted through a seemingly uneventful hairdressing trip, the off-kilter atmosphere lured me:

Jill describes what she intends to do, is corrected by Terry, instructed on the cutting and shaping of the fringe, and advised to do it first while the hair is dry.
Jill picks up her scissors and we both look into the mirror. She knows that she must talk to the customer and starts with the standard question: ‘Are you going somewhere special tonight?’
I am good at turning the question around.

O’Shea delights in ‘turning questions around’. Of course, little happens. You shouldn’t be surprised by that. But, actually, everything happens all the time. The nightmarish beauty of O’shea’s character intricacies reflect in triple mirrors and empty conversations. O’Shea can mesmerise with flatline reportage.

The stories are weathered, having found residence in literary journals. Their toughness, compassion and unquestionable originality remind me of Elizabeth Jolley and Virginia Woolf. Is
Don’t Wait feminist fiction? Existentialist? I’m not sure. Humanist? Yes. Intangible? Yes. Haunting? Yes. Will you have your questions answered? Is that what you’re hoping for?

Stuart Reedy, Lizard Skin Press

Don’t Wait
is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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The concept that our yesterdays are so much with us is so very evident in Thérèse’s collection.

Even the title Breath is the expulsion of an energy that was once part of our very existence. This energy is punctuated with the indulgence of the life and vibrancy that nature gives: where a journey along a north-west coastline turns into a visual extravaganza of colour and texture that forms a benediction to a yesterday spent on a journey that is indelibly captured in the poet’s mind’s eye.

Many of the poems form a chronicle of the experiences and the events that have either pervaded or cushioned the author’s journey. A recollection of the gentle touch of a mother’s hand to the haunting image of a hand held as life expires to a spiritual dimension.
There is the evocative theme where an ancestor’s experiences cannot be divorced from the how and why of existence. That invisible thread that is in the DNA of a person is seen as an offering to the newly born grandson from a grandmother. Also, the somewhat tenuous relationship to place becomes pivotal to understanding self.

Each step of his life began and ended on an island.
Shall it be so for me?

The shape, colour and vibrancy of the landscape become a guided road and a metaphor for a sense of place; love loss and found and of friendships and beauty. Being part of nature is also seen as a way of deliverance when the world is too much with us.
This anthology explores the sources of inspiration, for poetry, by going no further than revisiting the poet’s yesterdays.

Thérèse has a clear awareness of the craft that can present visual images and physical emotions so that the reader can make them his or her very own.

I take much pleasure in launching Breath, a testament to Thérèse’s yesterdays.

Fay Forbes

Breath is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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Loss, love, deep friendship, parent and child bonds, grief which never completely leaves, and joy in memories which delight, these are themes in The Ben Book.

Ben’s father, Michael, takes the reader with him as he describes his beloved son’s life with its ever-present sense of an end waiting not so far away; an end signalled in the steady decline in Ben’s capacity to walk, to move himself in his wheelchair, to use his arms, then his hands, then his fingers – in fact, his entire body, while his mind remained agile and curious.

Ben was early diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. From that shocking message, his mother, Esther, his father Michael, and later his sister, Rosanna, shared the necessities of caring for someone not able to fend for themselves for even the most intimate of daily activities.
Michael, a deep and reflective thinker, offers a carefully wrought narrative of his relationship with Ben as the incremental decline in Ben’s capacity to move consumed all their lives.
The Ben Book is about a father-son relationship and the joy in that close sharing of experiences, ideas, and possibilities. At Ben’s funeral, a friend said simply, ‘You have lost your best mate.’

Michael is not afraid to describe some of the most challenging, intimate details of that carer-father, carer-mate relationship. With a judicious nod to scholars and philosophers, Michael shows the reader how Ben, with his bright eyes and smile, lived bravely and well from childhood through to early adulthood.
It is not a sentimental book - far from it. It is a scholar father’s book written with compassion for others who also suffer loss. Yet,
The Ben Book is about Ben, from young boy to young man, whose spirit for living and learning and ‘being’ was not dimmed by the inexorable burden of his condition.

Emeritus Professor Claire Woods, University of South Australia

The Ben Book is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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I found myself moved, amused and affected by the poems in this marvellous collection. You will be taken to that fiery night in Mallacoota, to the eye of a heron in a blackened landscape, to a back garden in London where a migrant’s life comes to a tragic end and to the Bourke Street Lotto. You will go to private sensual places as in ‘The disobedience of the genitals’ and the hilarious epigram, Oh Lord, make me pure – but not yet.
John’s poems are sinewy and beautiful on the page. They have the sensuousness of the Baroque in form and style. Each poem skilfully crafted, the works artfully curated and confident.

There are confessional poems and poems that question,
Will I surrender to the drug of memory, Is that how I will find my way home? and in the title 'What would I say' to the father for 'not loving him enough'.

Some lines are arresting,
God will always demand the sacrifice of small children. John’s experience with the church in a past life has made a lasting impression on him and infuses his work. It’s given him an evocative mastery of language. It may have given him a dry sense of humour. It’s certainly given him an ability to note injustice, joy, beauty in destruction, ugliness in ignorance, the power of transformation, and a yearning for what is denied – innumerable lovers. And in the last lines of the collection the question of his unfinished life makes for a dramatic finale.

Schubert’s symphony, his seventh, Unfinished too.
Can its single, final note  surf the years, proclaiming
‘who do you think you are to escape unscathed?’

It is with loud clashing cymbals and a bottle of expensive champagne that I smash the bow of this book and bless all who get lost in enchantment and awe between her lines!

Julie Mclean

Songs of the Godforsaken
is available from John Bartlett (johnbartlett179@gmail.com).
John Bartlett’s website:

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Since childhood, Jayne’s love of nature has been ever present. Holidays at her grandfather’s shack provided horse riding along forest pathways and riverside walks amid coots and pelicans. At home, Jayne loved to hear the rumble of possums at play on the roof, the strumming of rain, wind whistling around the eaves. Keely, her Alaskan malamute, brought special pleasures like sledding at Kuitpo Forest, giving breaks from university studies.

Then came the accident and its devastating impacts. Yet gradually, cradled within family, friends and nature, Jayne began writing again.

We draw strength and reassurance from her poetry, for each line of each verse carries us into a space of calmness and renewal. Within Jayne’s snapshots of leaves in gutters, skinks on rocks and native birdsong we see a lively, unsullied mind. Her uncluttered observations, the carol of a magpie, the sigh of a breeze, the bark of a tree, show a deep appreciation of all that life holds.

With spare, singular verse, Jayne skilfully evokes an image at once utterly familiar causing her readers to say, yes, that’s just how it is. Poems like ‘Glory Vine’, ‘Rock Face’ and ‘Pocket of Stillness’ instantly bring scenes to life. Others such as ‘Carapace’, ‘Frogalogue’ and ‘Jetty’s Remedy’ enliven the senses. Still others connect to a deeper meaning such as ‘Blue Flower Day’, ‘Muse Cruising’ and ‘Monument of Truth’.

Sarah, Jayne’s twin sister, now living in Sweden with her husband Sakari and daughter Helena, says, throughout all that Jayne has endured her gentle soul and fantastic, free-spirited mind has rarely wavered.

We thank Stephen and Brenda Matthews at Ginninderra Press for giving a voice to Jayne’s work, for enabling her thoughts to sing.

Nature’s Cache is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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When a man on retiring says, ‘I’m going to climb 1,000 peaks in the UK by the time I am 70,’ you do have to wonder why.

Geoffrey Eldridge would have us believe he is just an ordinary man. I beg to differ. In
I Walk Alone, he shares with the reader how, from humble beginnings, with his passion for drawing and writing, he makes decisions in his daily life, formulated with a wicked sense of humour, while caring for a wife plagued with poor health, raising their three children on a very low income and being a union representative in the UK Social Security department – this last earning him an MBE. Early in his married life he abandoned ‘a career’ for ‘a job’ that paid the bills – just – and enabled him to pursue what was vital to his survival. For almost fifty years, he has applied those decision-making skills to potentially life-threatening situations in his beloved ‘rough country’.

In his late 50s, newly widowed, his children independent, he was financially solvent and
free. He extended his mountain climbing to Europe and Africa, but settled on the UK 1,000 as a sort of finale. For all the humour, it is the last three chapters that bring home the truly gruelling and punishing demands of his chosen lifestyle of being in the rough country as much as possible. We read how those decision-making skills really come into play.

Each of those 1,000 peaks has been counted individually. He has climbed very many more and many several times, but he is scrupulously honest in his record keeping as he is with himself. And be assured, he won’t hang about debating, he will be long gone up the trail of the Aimless Rambler – his chosen pen-name.

Brenda Matthews

I Walk Alone is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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Have you ever wondered how writing groups function? Why some flounder and others keep going for years? What the benefits are of joining or creating a group? You will find answers to these questions within Sharing Writing Skills.

This makes it an ideal tool for aspiring writers, as well as those with varied levels of experience who haven’t yet discovered the joys of belonging to a group. In fact, many kinds of writers will enjoy dipping into Sharing Writing Skills, which explains how writing communities can help.

What are the specific benefits of keeping
Sharing Writing Skills on a writer’s bookshelf?

For a start, the book explains how belonging to a successful group takes the isolation out of writing. It shows how sharing with others can take your writing to a new level. Each of us has something different to add to the creative mix, be it ability with characterisation, the skilful use of voice, the creation of authentic dialogue, or vivid and lyrical use of language and metaphor. Indeed, writers can learn a huge amount from each other.

Sharing Writing Skills, you will meet six authors in search of writing excellence. Find out how they function as writers. Read excerpts from their longer works, novels and memoirs, which they have either worked on or completed while being a part of the Randwick Writers’ Group.

By following these six writers’ journeys, all of which have included participation in at least one writers’ group, you will discover many of the essential requirements for aspiring authors to achieve their publishing goals.

Or, if you happen to know an aspirant writer who would benefit from knowing how to enter the as-yet unfamiliar world of writing, this book could hit the spot.
Hope you enjoy it.

Sharing Writing Skills is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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David Meldrum is the best storyteller I know. Spanning seven decades of adventures, he has collected more than his fair share of tales to tell. His debut memoir, Any Minute Now, is strikingly honest, frequently amusing, making for a heart in the mouth, jaw-dropping, rollicking read. There are guns, death threats, a plane crash into the Nullarbor Plain, remarkable insights into boys’ reformatories, catastrophic state disasters complete with an encounter with a prime minister, and tragedies that are personal, ‘beyond terror’, and all ultimately overcome.

From the start, the reader is plunged into the antics of twelve-year-old David, hearing for the first time about his own ‘bad reputation’. Over the subsequent six decades of mishaps, escapades and triumphs, David explores the substance of bravery, unravels events that challenge and the people who shape our psyche. It is a singular exploration of what it means to prove oneself and to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure progress for people most in need.

The lessons learned by the resourceful seventeen-year-old stranded in the outback with just $5, are echoed in the man who takes on influential roles including Director of Schools, the Helpmann Academy and Mental Health Planning, before moving to CEO of the South Australian Community Housing Authority, then Advanced Community Care Association, and later the Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia. The reader is given a unique opportunity to peek behind these titles, to meet fascinating characters, witness political games, appreciate the complexity of bureaucracies, eavesdrop on heated meetings and savour the resulting plot twists. It is this multi-layered engagement that makes this memoir so riveting.

David’s honest narration is raw and entertaining. His blend of disarming self-appraisal amidst a series of incredible tales makes
Any Minute Now a ripper of a read.

Natasha Miliotis

Any Minute Now is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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In the few years that I have been acquainted with Adrian, I have been constantly surprised by not only the prolific writing that he produces, but also the depth and colour of his work. He is unquestionably a superb wordsmith, and crafts the English language in fine images and tales within tales in his writing.

His latest book,
A Way Less Travelled, on the surface looks to be a peaceful idyllic ramble through pleasant walks and memories. Even the beginning, describing a time of autumn, my favourite season – ‘Sodden-leaved autumn, root slippery / Half strips branches rain seeping’ – evokes for me one of my all-time favourite poems of Keats.
‘To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom friend of the maturing sun.’

However, when reading this collection as a connected whole, the intricate way of the initiate, the way of the fool, the development of the inner self is very evident.

It is a real pleasure to read content that bespeaks a great knowledge of literature and history. The symbolism of Jerusalem as a holy centre, of the mystic teachings associated with the Tarot cards, of hope, passion and courage which are reflected in the glimpses of times in history and our modern times as the Last Post is played.

The verses speak of a reality for us all, and indeed, as we are reminded, Blake’s 6th Vision – The Temple of Humanity – is of mankind.
‘I am raised by hearts and hands
But not in stone
Worn to the bone
My builders toil in sweat and blood
Yet I am
Eternal in the Heavens.’

And so I would close with thanks to Adrian for his fine work, and hope that many of you will also enjoy
A Way Less Travelled as I have.

Helen Hall

A Way Less Travelled is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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Hello. I’m Ian McFarlane, author, critic and sometime poet, here to talk briefly in virtual reality on behalf of my new chapbook, The Crucible, containing poems concerning climate change and bushfires. The unfolding horror of COVID-19 has swept everything else aside, including the vast human and environmental tragedy of climate change. Which poses a terrible dilemma: Sooner or later we will find a vaccine, and the COVID-19 threat will have passed, but climate change catastrophe will still be here, edging ever closer to the point of no return. Response from government has been defined by denial, distraction and parlous procrastination, as weak leadership and vested interest support for fossil fuels refuses to engage with the truth. Philosophy has long since examined the elaborate belief systems we construct to deny the reality of our own mortality. It’s a similar kind of denial that now leaves us facing the grim reality of having to contemplate the possibility of our collective extinction. Greta Thunberg has been harshly criticised – disgracefully and undeservedly – for drawing attention to climate change denial, but if someone from her generation doesn’t have the right to express their anger, frustration and disappointment, it’s hard to know who does. My poems have always reflected a love for lyric cadence, rather than strict metric discipline, and I make no apology for that. There is evidence to suggest that reading lyric verse, particularly aloud, can provide solace, and I sincerely hope – in some small measure – that this is your experience with The Crucible. I would like to thank Brenda and Stephen at Ginninderra Press for their generous support over many years.
Thank you.

Ian McFarlane

The Crucible is available from Ginninderra Press.

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Brushstrokes and Trauma has origins in three events. Firstly, I attended a course in ‘Writing Trauma’ at Writing NSW, not as a psychological treatment, but to make sense of trauma by shaping it and turning it into art, something positive. 'Shock' and 'Trauma' were both started during the course.

Also, I visited the Art Gallery of NSW, on several occasions, sat in front of some pictures and wrote about them, and was particularly inspired by Ben Quilty’s
Self Portrait, which shows the trauma of being a war artist with our troops in Afghanistan.

Most importantly, my wonderful editor, Brenda Eldridge, sent me photos of some of her paintings, and my poems about them will feature in a future chapbook, as well as two in
Feathered Darkness. Brenda also offered to paint a  picture for Brushstrokes and Trauma and this appears in all its dramatic and powerful red on the cover, a painting inspired by the recent bushfires and their aftermath, a real trauma for the whole nation. You can see the brushstrokes as well as the trauma in that painting.

Feathered Darkness also features a cover by Brenda, and includes two poems, 'Another Place' and the title poem, about her paintings. This book, like many of mine, contains a mixture of recent and older poems. Those like 'The First Elizabeth' are very recent while others like 'Oxford Street' and 'The Skull' were written years ago but for some reason never published. Others, like 'The Observatory', are from my first book by the Melbourne Poets Union, in 2007. There are also two reworkings of classical Chinese poems of the Ninth Century, slightly older than my own.

I would like to thank my two editors, Brenda and Stephen, for their care, patience and hard work, and I hope these two small books give pleasure to all who read them.

John Egan

Brushstrokes and Trauma is available from Ginninderra Press.

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On the face of it, this is the story of Steve, a confident and successful man who is used to getting his own way.
He loves his wife Laura, and she loves him. But they have differing values. Steve is materialistic and flourishes in a society that flaunts wealth. His family and friends live in grand houses and drive expensive cars. The wives are showpieces, wearing designer clothes and sparkling with jewels. This is what he creates for himself and his wife.

But Laura does not fit into his world. She is modest, introspective, and creative. Her ambition is to become a successful writer. As the years progress, their conflicting goals create distance between them. Steve then embarks on a passionate love affair with a previous girlfriend. This leads to a breakdown of two marriages and the ensuing debacle for their families.

But this is much more than a story of an illicit affair.

The author delves into the psyche of a man who thinks that he can have it all. She’s researched, and convincingly portrays, reasons for his reckless actions. With great sensitivity, she records the changes that take place in his psyche as he comes to terms with the dire consequences he has to suffer for the rest of his life.

The author explores in depth the terrible pain and suffering of Laura, her breakdown, her gradual recovery, and her coming of age. I revelled in her achievements and her ultimate success.
Through the skilful storyline, one also gets to know Carla, the other woman, and the sacrifices she makes for the only man she’s ever loved – Steve.

What have you done, Maureen Mendelowitz’s third published novel, is another fine example of this writer’s ability to create a gripping storyline with intriguing characters, passionately told in her expressive and excellent use of language. It is a moving and convincing account of love and passion, wonderfully told, that held my attention from beginning to end.

what have you done is available from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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Long is the Way and Hard tells about Harry, the only survivor of the three young men we first meet in the award-winning novella Siege of Contraries. This sequel tells us about his coupling with Caitlin, the widow of Patrick and her son Joseph. It is a story of grief, love, and endurance set in post-World War I.

Caitlin, a young English woman, and Harry, a young Australian man are grieving for loved ones who didn’t survive the war. When Caitlin’s baby is born, she writes to Harry with this news and a trail of correspondence develops that stretches from one end of the planet to the other. Through these letters, Harry’s feelings for Caitlin grow into love and he eventually proposed marriage to her. Caitlin, is initially overwhelmed by doubts about leaving her adopted family, and the place where her beloved Patrick had lived and died. She questioned the wisdom of travelling such a distance with her young son. The challenges and decisions are many and riddled with misgivings about Joseph’s education and general living conditions. After a long period of soul-searching and researching information about Australia at the local library, she accepts Harry’s proposal and mails her decision to him.

Throughout a background of family life in England, and a journey from England to Australia, Caitlin’s son, Joseph, a little boy loved by a tribe of women, becomes the focus of attention. When Caitlin and Harry meet at the Port of Melbourne on a wickedly hot day, in February. They stood among the smells and crowds and noise of disembarkation, looking into each other’s eyes, for a long, long time. They decide to make their home in Numurkah, with Lettie, Harry’s Scottish mother. The young German man Karl, from
Siege of Contraries, is represented by his grieving mother, Nina.

Long is the Way and Hard is available from Helen Mitchell (linpra1@optusnet.com.au) or from Ginninderra Press or through your favourite online bookseller.

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Raw is an excellent title for this chapbook in the Picaro Poets series. Diana uses the power of words to identify basic emotions that most of us experience one way or another, but are not always willing or able to put a name to. There is the jealousy revealed by social media sites, bullying in the playground, the undermining effect of angst, deception – whether by carefully hiding our emotions or the discovery of a cheating partner, fighting the black dog of despair, domestic violence, facing the loss of loved ones. But Diana has balanced these harsh realities with an appreciation of the strength found in times of unity, connection, stoicism, the calming effect of floating in the ocean and seeing a whale ‘basking in sapphire waters under winter sunshine’. For me, ‘Greek Daisy’ encapsulates so much of human nature with its contradictions and surprises.

The First Fig of Summer is number 85 in the Pocket Poets series. From the very beginning of this sumptuous collection, Diana dares us to accompany her into the natural world accompanied by sensuality. ‘…my senses race toward the moment of my next lingering bite into texture ecstasy’. There are flights of imagination as she introduces us to ‘agapanthus – a slippery dip for elves’ and in ‘Snow Country’ – a fairyland of slowing down and of anticipation… In ‘The Storm’ – ‘Rain, soft as an embrace’ – or ‘sea, a caged beast, moving uneasily under the headland…’ Diana is clearly an observer, seeing the smallest details in a light-filled cobweb. She has the skill to craft poetry from seeing cows chewing their cud and watching a farmer checking his fences. In ‘Currawongs’ Call’ Diana hints at ‘the suburban backyard of my childhood…’ Is she perhaps someone who has come to live in the country and sees it with fresh eyes wide open?

Brenda Eldridge

Raw and The First Fig of Summer are available from Ginninderra Press.